Bracket reveal: Anaheim Classic

Tournament bracket for the 2012 Anaheim Classic

When and where: Nov. 22-23, 25 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Initial thoughts: On the surface, this isn’t a very sexy tournament but there are some intriguing teams here to keep an eye on. Now that VCU and Old Dominion have bolted, most everyone agrees that the CAA is Drexel’s league to lose this season. Still, Bruiser Flint knows well the need to build up a nonconference resume and wins here would help.

I’m really curious to see what Xavier is all about after last year’s turbulent season. Mark Lyons is gone, which could be a good thing for the Musketeers. A terrific player, he was a handful to coach and while losing him, plus Tu Holloway, hurts in the scoring column, Xavier might be better off in the long run parting ways with Lyons.

California should be among the better teams in the potentially resurgent Pac-12, but has to adjust to losing Jorge Gutierrez.

Mfon Udofia has to be both leader and scorer for Georgia Tech now that Brian Gregory has dismissed Glen Rice Jr. from the team.

Drake coach Mark Phelps rolls out a roster with eight newcomers, not exactly what you want against the more experienced lineup that Cal will present.

Ben Braun got Rice to turn the corner last season, gobbling up the Owls’ most wins (19) in seven years. He welcomes back his two top scorers, as Rice could be a bit of a sleeper here.

Saint Mary’s is coming off an historic regular season, winning both the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament, but had a disappointing loss to Purdue in the NCAA tournament. Matthew Dellavedova is back, but Rob Jones is gone.

Matchup I can’t wait to see: Drexel vs. Saint Mary’s. One of the nation’s best defensive teams against one of the country’s best offensive squads? Frantz Massenat and Chris Fouch going up against Dellavedova? What’s not to like here? This game could be high-caliber enough to qualify as a BracketBuster.

Potential matchup I’d like to see: Cal vs. Saint Mary’s. It’s a California tournament. Why not let the two in-state teams from NorCal duke it out for the title?

Key players to watch

Robert Carter, Georgia Tech: The native son has been viewed as a sort of savior for the Yellow Jackets. The power forward, ranked 33rd in the country in the ESPN 100, is certainly a critical piece as Brian Gregory tries to resurrect Tech.

Allen Crabbe, Cal: One of the top returning scorers in the Pac-12, Crabbe, along with teammate Justin Cobbs, serve as a 1-2 punch of optimism for the Golden Bears this season.

Matthew Dellavedova, SMC: The WCC player of the year will spend his summer in London, playing for the Australian Olympic team. Expect that experience to make the playmaker only that much better.

Arsalan Kazemi, Rice: You might never have heard of Kazemi, but in three years few players have been as steady as he has been for Rice. Kazemi has averaged a double-double in each of his collegiate seasons.

Frantz Massenat, Drexel: Massenat figures to be one of the mid-major players plenty of people will keep an eye on this season. The Dragons’ leading scorer from a year ago averaged 13.7 points per game as a sophomore.

Ben Simons, Drake: The third-leading scorer in the Missouri Valley a year ago, Simons doubled his scoring output between his sophomore and junior years. With a roster full of newcomers, expect Simons to be asked to score even more this season.

Dez Wells, Xavier: Wells goes from understudy to front and center, now that Holloway and Lyons are gone. He’s been terrific in a supporting role, averaging 9.8 points as a freshman.

Title-game prediction

Cal over Saint Mary's: College basketball, like most sports, isn’t that complicated. Talent and experience make for a pretty good combo and the Bears have more of each than anyone else in this field.

Who others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: Saint Mary's over Cal

Andy Katz: Drexel over Cal

Jason King: Cal over Saint Mary's

Myron Medcalf: Drexel over Cal